Saturday, 27 June 2015

The Secret Lives of Dresses

The Secret Lives of Dresses by Erin McKean seemed a bit twee as a book title when I saw it the library shelf but on looking at the notes/blurb on the back of the book and reading that the author also has a blog at, , which I had read but not recently, I became more enthusiastic. The book turned out to be a competently written story about a young woman, Dora, brought up by her grandmother Mimi, who owns a vintage dress and clothing store in a small American town. Dora receives n urgent phone call while working in a student coffee bar as a fill-in summer job at university telling her Mimi has been taken to hospital, so Dora rushes back home.
While Mimi is in hospital, Dora decides to keep the store open, and discovers that Mimi had been writing a story about the dresses she sold.
I enjoyed the characters in the story and the visions created by the descriptions of the dresses and other items of clothing. although I am unlikely to wear vintage myself (probably an age thing- I'm in my late sixties) and I thought the gentle romance side of the story believable. I read this in one sitting, as although it's not a demanding read, yet it has great page-turning qualities. You do want to know what happens to the characters, will they be alright?
The discussion about clothes and how they can make you  and those who see you feel is interesting and always relevant. We are constantly given messages about appearance, that it matters, that people judge us by how we look and dress, although we are also judged on how we behave to those around us. I think this book caught my imagination as I used to make a lot of my own clothes, encouraged by my mother. Growing up as a teenager in the 60's, good quality clothes were expensive, so if my sister and I wanted something new to wear, we could make it, using a pattern and materiel bought locally. I have carried on making, although when I had a full-time job and two children, I made fewer clothes; I gave up making trousers for  the boys when they started needing a fly zip, but continued to make cushions and curtains for the house, and for our summer house in the Auvergne.

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